Top 10 trends shaping the health industry in 2016

Written by Kelly Gooch | December 09, 2015

We know healthcare employees are already using technology in the workplace. We know consumers are increasingly using emerging technologies to stay engaged in their care. But what role will these forces play in 2016?

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults, experts and clients to find out.

According to PwC’s HRI’s findings, 2016 will be the year millions of consumers have their first video consult and use their smartphones as diagnostic tools for the first time. Like in years past, many people will use new tools to manage their healthcare expenses, and clinicians will learn to work in new ways, incorporating insights obtained from data analyses into their treatment plans.

Aside from those influences, 2016 is also an election year, and healthcare will be part of the political conversation. Drug pricing in particular has become an issue on the campaign trail.

Here are 10 top healthcare trends shaping the industry in 2016, as outlined by Trine Tsouderos, a director in PwC’s HRI.

1. 2016 is the year of merger mania. By mid-year 2015, nearly $400 billion in agreements in healthcare deals had been announced, breaking records set the previous year. Unconventional partnerships across the industry should dominate 2016 as well, according to PwC’s HRI.

Insurers will take center stage as they look to boost negotiating power and seek competitive advantages such as diversified revenue streams from new products, the optimization of IT infrastructure and powerful data analytics.

Additionally, collaborations between independent hospitals and clinician groups/top tier health systems will generate more consumer touchpoints.

“I think going into 2016 we do see [consolidation] continue due to the fact the entire industry is changing and shifting and capital remains cheap, so it’s advantageous if you have plans to do it now,” Ms. Tsouderos says. “We also kind of see a domino effect of mergers in one part of the industry kind of leading others to do the same and start scaling up. Also, since it’s an election year, these questions about mergers and acquisitions will become political quests as well and make their way into the political realm and campaign trails.”

2. Goldilocks comes to drug prices. Drug pricing has reached a peak in the U.S. With the rise of high-deductible healthcare plans, consumers are likely to become increasingly frustrated with those high prices, according to PwC’s HRI. The firm estimates that under threat of strong government action, pharmaceutical companies may contemplate new models in 2016. “Their focus may be on conveying value, justifying the cost of drugs through complementary programs, or considering alternative financing models,” PwC’s HRI researchers wrote. Overall, drug pricing continues to be a high-profile topic, according to Ms. Tsouderos. “Lots of players in the industry are kind of playing a tug of war on where the drug prices should be,” she says.

3. Care in the palm of your hand. Consumers will not only use their smartphones and tablets for health monitoring, but also to provide anywhere, anytime diagnosis and treatment in 2016. From “bedless” hospitals to smartphone medicine, care can and will increasingly be delivered remotely. PwC’s HRI found the percentage of consumers with at least one medical, health or fitness app on their mobile devices has doubled, from 16 percent in 2013 to 32 percent in 2015. In addition, 60 percent of consumers surveyed are willing to have a visit with their physician using their mobile device.

4. Cybersecurity concerns come to medical technology. For the first time in 2016, medical devices such as insulin pumps may see real threats from hackers. “Device companies and healthcare providers will need to be proactive to maintain trust in medical equipment. Network architecture and design will be critical to preventing breaches that could cripple the industry,” PwC’s HRI researchers wrote. PwC’s HRI found half of consumers surveyed would think twice about using any connected medical device after a hacking incident, and 38 percent would be wary of using a hospital associated with the hacked device.

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